Trusts and Estates

Autonomous Region of Narcotics Anonymous v. Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

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Cite as B309376
Filed April 25, 2022, Second District, Div. Eight

By Jaime B. Herren
Holland & Knight LLP

Headnote: Charitable Trusts – No Special Interest Standing for Revocable Trusts

Summary: The common law doctrine of special interest standing to enforce charitable trusts does not extend to revocable trusts.

Recovering drug addicts created the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous (“Fellowship”), which has hundreds of thousands of members and convenes at a governing bi-annual World Service Conference.  At the conference in 1993, it created a revocable charitable trust to manage its literature and intellectual property assets.  The Fellowship is the trust’s beneficiary.  Petitioner,  a regional delegate group of the Fellowship, asserted breach of fiduciary duty against the trustee and sought to distribute the literature held in trust, among other things.  Respondent is Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc., the trustee of the trust.   The trial court interpreted the trust to mean that the Fellowship, not any local group of regional delegates thereunder, is settlor of the revocable charitable trust.  It determined Petitioner lacked standing and sustained Respondent’s demurrer without leave to amend.

The appellate court affirmed.  Petitioner had no special interest standing because there is no special standing to enforce charitable trusts that are revocable.  Nor was Petitioner a settlor, despite its contention it was one of many settlors as a regional delegate of the Fellowship.  The probate court correctly found the Fellowship was the settlor, as it had been given the power to act as settlor through regional delegates at the World Service Conference, in accordance with the trust’s terms.

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